The M3 family has swelled further with BMW’s announcement of the new convertible version - and a twin-clutch gearbox. This is the first M3 with a folding metal hardtop, and the first with BMW's new transmission.
It's a new seven-speed gearbox called M DCT gearbox – a double-clutch affair (like VW's seven-speed DSG) allowing near-instant changes, with little drop in power. The new transmission works with BMW’s Drivelogic, offering 11 different settings including Launch Control. Expect it as an option to be added across the M3 range when the convertible arrives in summer 2008.
The M3 cab is distinguished from regular 3-series drop-tops by the powerdome on the bonnet and enlarged front air intakes; other telltale signs are the M-division gills on the side and fast M3 door mirrors. Beefed-up alloys are borrowed from the coupe, the carbon roof is not (for obvious reasons).
BMW claims the new convertible is 50 percent stronger than its predecessor, with less flex but added weight. The M3 Convertible weighs 135kg more than the coupe.
The performance from the M3's 414bhp V8 suffers from the extra heft, but the 4.0-litre still pulls the car to 62mph in 5.3 seconds - not exactly slow. Top speed remains a limited 155mph. The M-differential also makes an appearance, potentially making this one of the most entertaining open-tops to sling around.
As with other M3s, Regenerative Braking will be part of the package, although it's not some sort of fancy hybrid. All M3s only charge the alternator when on the overrun, so when you lift off the throttle the energy isn't wasted, although with a combined 21.9mpg and 309g/km emissions, owners won’t be buying this one for its green credentials.
The car will be shown to the public at Geneva and is expected to make it to the UK, one of the M division’s strongest markets, nicely in time for summer. Expect to pay round £55,000. And fear not, the air-conditioning adjusts when you open the roof, so you can stay warm, even if the British weather is anything but.